Emerging bacterial infectious agents

In this project we perform cross-sectional studies on novel bacterial strains isolated from wildlife species to understand their importance and adaptability to specific hosts and to provide solutions for a reliable identification. Our research combines the expertise from veterinary pathologists as well as microbiologists of veterinary science universities, national reference and federal state laboratories.

Project details
Duration: since 12/2014
Third-party funded: no
Involved Department(s): Dept Wildlife Diseases, Dept Evolutionary GeneticsDept Evolutionary Ecology
Leibniz-IZW Project Leader(s): Kristin Mühldorfer (Dept Wildlife Diseases)
Leibniz-IZW Project Team: Claudia Szentiks, Gudrun Wibbelt (all: Dept Wildlife Diseases), Jörns Fickel (Dept Evolutionary Genetics) Oliver Höner (Dept Evolutionary Ecology)
Consortium Partner(s): Hessian State Laboratory Giessen, Chemical and Veterinary Investigatory Office Stuttgart, National Reference Laboratory on Streptococcal Diseases at the University Hospital Aachen, Institute of Microbiology and Epizootics at the Freie Universität Berlin, Veterinary Clinical Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen
Current Funding Organisation: -
Research Foci:
Understanding wildlife health and disturbed homeostasis
Developing theories, methods, and tools


Bacterial pathogens affecting wildlife are largely neglected in the field of wildlife research. They frequently occur in wildlife species but fundamental knowledge of their importance and adaptability to specific hosts is lacking as are reliable detection and identification methods. Our current work focuses on bacteria from the families Pasteurellaceae and Streptococcaceae. They include members associated with serious disease outbreaks in wildlife. Both families comprise a high diversity of bacterial species with specific host affinities, which can cause diseases in captive and free-ranging wild animals.

In a collaborative approach, we also investigated “atypical” Brucella from various anuran amphibian species. Although considered to be bacterial pathogens of mammals only, these novel Brucella species can cause disease and mortality in amphibians, and could bear a potential zoonotic risk to animal keepers. Amphibians worldwide experience dramatic declines due to infectious diseases with serious and lasting consequences for the health of ecosystems. Zoos have implemented breeding programs of threatened species to contribute to amphibian conservation.

1) Photo by Dr. Kristin Mühldorfer: "Novel Pasteurellaceae species, Vespertiliibacter pulmonis, isolated from bats", Copyright: K. Mühldorfer, IZW
2) Photo by Dr. Valerij Akimkin: "Novel Streptococcus species isolated from diseased Chacoan peccaries (Catagonus wagneri)", Copyright: V. Akimkin, CVUA Stuttgart
3) Photo by Dr. Claudia Szentiks: "Necropsy of an Amazonian milk frog (Trachycephalus resinifictrix) infected by a novel Brucella species", Copyright: C. Szentiks, IZW

Selected Publications

Mühldorfer K (in press): Genus Vespertiliibacter Mühldorfer et al. 2014VP. In: Bergey's Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria. Christensen H (ed), John Wiley & Sons, Inc., in association with Bergey’s Manual Trust. Digital Edition 2020:1-3.

Mühldorfer K, Rau J, Fawzy A, Heydel C, Glaeser SP, van der Linden M, Kutzer P, Knauf-Witzens T, Hanczaruk M, Eckert AS, Eisenberg T (2019): Streptococcus castoreus, an uncommon group A Streptococcus in beavers. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 112, 1663-1673.

Mühldorfer K, Wibbelt G, Szentiks CA, Fischer D, Scholz HC, Zschöck M, Eisenberg T (2017): The role of 'atypical' Brucella in amphibians: Are we facing novel emerging pathogens? J Appl Microbiol 122, 40-53.

Scholz HC, Mühldorfer K, Shilton C, Benedict S, Whatmore AM, Blom J, Eisenberg T (2016): The change of a medically important genus: Worldwide occurrence of genetically diverse novel Brucella species in exotic frogs. PLoS ONE 11, e0168872.

Mühldorfer K, Speck S, Wibbelt G (2014): Proposal of Vespertiliibacter pulmonis gen. nov., sp. nov. and two genomospecies as new members of the family Pasteurellaceae isolated from European bats. Int J Sys Evol Micro 64, 2424-30.